Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a packed schedule in Manila on Monday. Day after world leaders, including, Modi, US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and several other world leaders arrived in Manila on Sunday for the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) summit which is set to extensively deliberate on evolving security challenges facing South East Asia. The annual summit of 10 influential countries, is taking place amid China's aggressive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea and North Korea's nuclear missile tests and both these issues are likely to figure prominently during discussions among the leaders, a senior diplomat said.
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Modi is expected to hold bilateral meetings with Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, reports have said. The ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. According to prime minister's official statement before he left for Manila, Modi said, "This will be my first bilateral visit to the Philippines where I will also participate in the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summits. My participation in them symbolises India’s commitment to continue deepening relationship with ASEAN Member States, in particular, and with the Indo-Pacific region, in general, within the framework of my Government’s Act East Policy. Besides these Summits, I would also participate in Special Celebrations of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting and ASEAN Business and Investment Summit."
Modi will attend the 15th ASEAN-India summit and 12th East Asia summit on 14 November during which he is likely to reassert India's call for crafting a coordinated global initiative in dealing with traditional and non-traditional threats facing the region.
The ties between India and ASEAN have been on an upswing in the last few years with focus being on ramping up cooperation in the areas of trade and investment as well as security and defence. "Every single country in the ASEAN region wants India to be more engaged in the region in every possible way. That is the real synergy we have with ASEAN," Indian Ambassador to Philippines Jaideep Mazumdar told PTI.
The US, France and Japan have been pitching for a larger role by India in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region where China has been trying to increase its military presence. Majumdar said terrorism is going to be one of the issues that will be discussed not only during the ASEAN summit but also at the East Asia summit. He said several documents are going to be adopted with an aim to contain terrorism, including one on stopping money laundering for the purpose of terrorism.
On Sunday, Modi held separate pull-aside meetings with Trump and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of a gala dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN. Modi was also seen chit-chatting with Abe, Medvedev and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the reception for the leaders. He also held brief interactions with several other leaders who attended the reception hosted by Duterte at the mega SMX Convention Centre in Pasay City in Manila.
Modi as well as all other leaders wore Barong Tagalong, an embroidered shirt which is the national dress of the Philippines. Renowned Filipino designer Albert Andrada has designed the shirts. Modi also tweeted pictures of his interaction with several leaders.
The menu of the gala dinner featured various Filipino cuisines including Filipino steak sushi.
The brief interaction between Modi and Trump came ahead of their scheduled bilateral meeting tomorrow. The two leaders are expected to deliberate on a number of key issues of mutual interest including the evolving security situation in the Indo-Pacific region where Washington favours a greater role by India.
There have been concerns over China's growing military presence in the Indo-Pacific and the issue was understood to have figured in a meeting of officials from India, the US, Japan and Australia today under the proposed Quadrilateral coalition of the four countries.
"The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners," the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.
"They agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large," it said.
Not just trade and investment, ASEAN expected to discuss maritime security, terrorism, non-proliferation
While ASEAN summit is likely to focus more on trade and investment related issues, leaders at the East Asia Summit are expected to delve deep into issues relating to maritime security, terrorism, non-proliferation and migration.
Apart from the 10 ASEAN member states, East Asia Summit includes India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the US. In the ASEAN-India summit, both sides are expected to explore ways to further enhance trade and investment ties.
The ASEAN region along with India together comprises combined population of 1.85 billion people, which is one fourth of the global population and their combined GDP has been estimated to be over $3.8 trillion.
Investment from ASEAN to India has been over $70 billion in the last 17 years, accounting for more than 17 percent of India's total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). India's investment in ASEAN during the same period has been more than $40 billion.
India's proposal to host an international conference on countering radicalisation may also be discussed during the deliberations at Manila as New Delhi is now looking at finalising the dates for the conclave.
Modi will also participate in the ASEAN business and investment summit as well as a meeting of leaders of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The RCEP, comprising 10-member ASEAN bloc and six other countries — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — is engaged in negotiations for a free trade pact. On his maiden visit to the Philippines as the prime minister, Modi will also attend a reception by the Indian community and visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Mahavir Philippines Foundation.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Nov 13, 2017 08:09 AM